Dining in the Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2010,
Fall 2010
Original Images:

Author: John Kirkendall

On a summer evening in early July the Ypsilanti Historical Museum was the site of a gala dinner given to benefit Ypsilanti’s historic Freight House. The brainchild of Nat Edmunds, the dinner was auctioned to the highest bidder at an event held at the Ypsilanti Fire Hall. The high bidders, at $800 for a dinner for 8, were Pam Byrnes and Kent Brown. I was the chef for the occasion – and there were lots of talented and experienced people to help pull it together.

As guests entered the museum, they could not help but experience a sense of awe. The cellist, Dr. Robert Reed, known widely for his work with the Detroit Symphony and the Michigan Opera Theatre was playing in the living room next to the fireplace. In the dining room the formal table featured a bouquet of fresh cut, beguiling field flowers, befitting the museum. The flower arrangement was courtesy of Bonnie Penet, Co-Chair of the Friends of the Freight House (Nat Edmunds is the other co-chair.) The table itself was bountiful with sparkling crystal and gleaming Havilland – the china donated to the Museum by the estate of Judge Edward D. Deake – and polished to a fine gloss by Karen Nickels and Kathryn Howard in anticipation of the dinner. The kitchen was alive with aromas of the Beef Wellington and other culinary treasurers awaiting the guests.

Meanwhile, Nat had discovered an area new to her behind the second dining room that housed a double sink – perfect to keep dishes, glasses and silver washed as they were used. Many were recycled for several uses during the dinner. She will likely have dishpan hands for some time! Her principal assistant was Dick Robb who dried and buffed as the dishes were recycled.
Our team of servers was exemplary. The team was orchestrated by Dr. Susan Gregory, Director of the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program at Eastern Michigan University. Our credo was Service, Silence and Safety. There was no unnecessary conversation among our team during the dinner and service was ever present without being obsequious. Pam herself mentioned she had never experienced such service.

Andrea Linn handled the “staging” of the plates. They looked magnificent, each course overshadowing the previous. In the meantime, I was in the kitchen trying to get the courses out in order. (Andrea was also instrumental in the preparation of several other phases of the dinner.)
Wines were paired with the various courses by Jerry Hayes and he arranged to have the wines as well as the champagne donated to the Freight House dinner. Jerry does catering for people and organizations around our community and his largess and expertise was much appreciated.
The delicate museum crystal was used as it was originally intended - much to the delight of the assembled dinner guests.

The evening went like clockwork. Thanks to our team. The director of the Museum, Al Rudisill, was on hand to make sure no need that arose was unmet. The servers were Dick Robb (former EMU Regent and dentist,) Jim Baker (who, along with Bonnie, was our photographer,) Bob Taylor (retired firefighter, who appeared with the fire extinguisher with great effect as the flaming dessert was ignited,) and Tom Tobias (retired school teacher.)

The menu for the dinner included:

  • Appetizers: Amuse-Bouches and Champagne; Michigan Country Paté with buttered, toasted pain de mie rounds; Smoked Upper Peninsula Whitefish.
  • First Course: Vegetable Crepe Gateau; fresh tomato sauce; Blanc de Blanc Leelanau Michigan wine.
  • Second Course: Vichyssoise, a cup served with warm River Street French Bread with Basil Butter and Unsalted Butter.
  • Between Courses: Minted Pineapple Lime Sorbet with Moravian Ginger Cookie served in Sesquicentennial shot glass (yours to keep).
  • Entrée: Tenderloin of Chelsea Beef Wellington; Crisped Potato Baskets with Buttered Snow Peas; Upright Romaine with Maytag Bleu Cheese dipping sauce; Selection of Michigan Reds by Mawby Winery.
  • Dessert: Genoise ice cream roll with Traverse City Cherries Jubilee.

The museum itself provided an elegant backdrop for a wonderful evening. The evening began with a professional tour led by Nancy Wheeler, a thoroughly knowledgeable docent dressed in period clothing. By the time the evening concluded, our out-of-town guests were totally impressed by, and enthusiastic about, an important historical resource available in and for our community and, in fact, a resource used by many others from distant locations.

I have a feeling we will be seeing these guests again.

(John Kirkendall, retired judge and an active chef, prepared the feast that benefitted the Ypsilanti Freight House renovation.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Pam Byrnes and Kent Brown with their guests enjoying one of the many courses of food served at the dinner in the dining room of the YHS Museum.

Photo 2: Servers joining Chef Kirkendall were: (left to right) Tom Tobias, retired teacher; Dick Robb, retired dentist and former EMU regent; Kirkendall; Jim Baker, retired box designer; and Bob Taylor, former firefighter.

Photo 3: Dinner guests were entertained throughout the evening by cellist Dr. Robert Reed, widely known for his work with the Detroit Symphony and the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Photo 4: Al Rudisill, (right) YHS President, greeted the guests at the front door of the Museum and Nancy Wheeler, (left) provided a tour of the Museum and Archives.

Photo 5: Pam Byrnes was the high bidder at $800 for the “Dinner for eight in the YHS Museum Dining Room.”

News from the Fletcher-White Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: Gerry Pety

Where has the year gone! Seems like it was just April when we had a very nice book signing with our own Laura Bien. The program she gave turned out to be extremely interesting and informative as to how she finds all that interesting “stuff” we all see in her writings, yet we all miss. Now we know where she gets the stories that seem to elude amateur story tellers.

James Mann, our local historian, promises us his next book will be published soon and it will also be a “bestseller.” Really, it should be in the Achieves and Museum bookstores this fall, just in time for inclusion on your holiday shopping list.

The YHS Museum and Achives received some real treasures recently when the EMU Archives turned over their Florence S. Babbitt Collection on permanent loan to the Society. Some of the artifacts included in the collection are a brass whale oil lamp, sewing machine, brick oven shovel, copper bed warming pan, and framed mirror. As we explore this new collection, on permanent loan from EMU, expect several future Gleanings articles based on its content.

I have a request for the YHS membership, our patrons, and anyone else reading this publication. We have received inquiries from a number of people who are trying to find pictures of Willow Run Village of Bomber Village to reconstruct the streetscape of the downtown section during and shortly after World War II. Presently, we have almost no pictures of the commercial district. There were several stores, a bowling alley, and a church. It has now been 50 years since most of the village was demolished for redevelopment and time is running out to capture these scarce images. We would love the opportunity to make digital copies of any photos you might have or preserve them should you wish to donate them to the YHS Archives. Please contact the archives for specific information. Help us to preserve an important part of Ypsilanti’s past!

(Gerry Pety is Director of the Fletcher-White Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Museum Advisory Board Report

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: Kathryn Howard

The Museum has been a very busy and lively place this spring and early summer. We started with the Art Exhibit from May 9-23. We had 32 artists exhibiting and 125 art pieces. Our artists came from Howell, Pinckney, Chelsea, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Belleville and Ypsilanti. We were very proud to have such a large area participating. We added photography this year. This is the largest art exhibit we have had with a wonderful group of advisory board members, docents and artists helping.

In the meantime, the Lost Ypsilanti Committee of Bob Southgate, Jack Livisay and Virginia Davis Brown are preparing for this exhibit to open on July 18. It will run through September 5. Their research topic this year has been Willow Run during World War II. It will concentrate on the effects Willow Run and World War II had on the community and the changes brought about in the Ypsilanti area. It should be very interesting so be sure to see it.

Currently on view is the Robert Southgate, Sr. photography exhibit. Mr. Southgate started his photography business after returning from World War II. We have his equipment, photographs of his family, and his other works. Also on display are many cameras from our own collection which take you through the history and advancement of photography.

Also on display at this time are Hummel plates and a silver service donated to the Museum by Maxe and Terri Obermeyer.

In the former meeting room (now music room) the Barnhill Band and Ypsilanti High School Drum and Bugle Corps are featured. Dr. Barnhill’s clarinets are displayed. Also in the case are stringed instruments. All of the above have been restored by Robert Campbell. Jerry Jennings has installed lighting in the case so the items are more visible. You must see these along with the brass horns and other items.

In other areas, the bedroom now has a lovely antique chandelier, a gift from Kathryn Howard. Most of our museum rooms are now lighted by chandeliers. In the Milleman Parlor we have a beautiful antique mirror given by Andrea Schollaeat. We have just received on permanent loan from the Eastern Michigan University Archives 132 eighteenth and nineteenth century artifacts from the Florence S. Babbitt Collection. This collection will be a wonderful addition to our displays as some of the items date back to 1791.

The Underground Railroad tours are now available. Call the Museum office at 734-482-4990 if you would like to schedule one. Also, 2011 calendars will be on sale during the Heritage Festival in August. We are in need of docents during the Heritage Festival from August 20-22. Our hours are from 2 to 6 p.m. on Friday, 12 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Quilt Show will be our next main event and is scheduled from September 26 to October 17.

Be sure to visit the Museum this summer to see all the changes being made to the displays.

(Kathryn Howard is the Vice Chairperson of the YHS Museum Advisory Board.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Robert Southgate, Sr. photography exhibit is currently on display in the Museum. Mr. Southgate started his photography business in Ypsilanti after returning from World War II.

From the President’s Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: Al Rudisill

Our next quarterly meeting is Sunday, September 12 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. We hope you will join us for the meeting and program. Refreshments will be served following the meeting and entertainment.

We are very pleased to report that our annual yard sale was a great success. We took in almost $2,500 from all the items that were donated by members and friends of the Ypsilanti Historical Society. Our sincere thanks to all the volunteers who spent time preparing for the sale and a special thanks to Bill and Karen Nickels who hosted the event in their yard. The sale also helps the community in additional ways. At the end, leftover household items were donated to the Center for Independent Living, leftover books were donated to the District Library, and the remaining leftover items were donated to the Ypsilanti Public Schools Foundation Resale Shop.

Two new maintenance efforts on the museum building are currently under way. The first project is to repair the front steps and front door entrance including the replacement of the limestone side walls and the limestone threshold under the door. This project will cost approximately $8,000 and an anonymous donor has donated the funds to complete the project. The second project is to repair and paint 43 windows and construct and install storm windows on these openings. This project will cost approximately $300 per window or $12,900 for the entire project. We are initiating a “Buy a Storm Window” program to raise the funds. Additional information about the program is included later in this issue of the Gleanings.

Our new expanded and resurfaced parking lot has relieved some of the parking issues we have had over the past several years. However, during the pouring of the cement we ended up with a cold joint which was caused by one of the cement trucks being late during the pour last fall. Three of the 10’ x 10’ squares will be repoured and the parking lines will be repainted. A sincere thanks to all of our members and friends who contributed their time and/or money for this major project.

We are always looking for volunteers as docents for the Museum or research assistants for the Archives. Both the Museum and Archives are open from 2:00 to 5:00 pm from Tuesday through Sunday. If you are available during that time and are interested in helping us preserve the historical information and artifacts of the area, or educating the general public about our history, please give me a call at 734-476-6658.

Book Review: Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2010,
Spring 2010
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

We are very pleased to announce the publication of a new book titled “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives: Tripe-mongers, Parker’s Hair Balsam, The Underwear Club & More” written by our own Laura Bien.

The Ypsilanti Archives in the basement of the Museum at 220 North Huron Street is a treasure trove, not of gold, silver or diamonds, but of stories from Ypsilanti’s past. Laura Bien has mined this rich vein in frequent trips to the Archives, and has shared these stories in her Dusty Diary blog, and her columns in The Ypsilanti Courier, The Ypsilanti Citizen, The Ann Arbor Observer and AnnArbor.com. A few of these gems are now collected in one volume.

The book includes stories on many diverse topics from Ypsilanti’s past including: the battle the city waged against standardized time; the history of the Ypsilanti High School colors; and, Inez Graves the Angel of the Depression. Included in the book is the story of Lora Bryant - the Normal College student who disappeared in 1907; Elijah Pilcher - the itinerant Methodist preacher including the travails and hardships of his calling; and John Norton, the Civil War veteran who could not take of himself.

Each story is carefully researched and crafted, giving a glimpse of the rich history that is Ypsilanti. Bien is a talented writer with a gift for words. She conveys a sense of place, whether it is to a 19th Century store or the scene of a murder, the reader has a feel of the setting. Take for example the tale of the Clara Richards, the Flapper Bootlegger, as she tried to save herself from arrest as police raided her home. “Clara was determined that her luck wouldn’t run out. She grabbed a jug of moonshine and ran to the kitchen sink, where she upended the jug. Glug, glug, glug - the incriminating ‘shine was almost gone! The clear liquid spiraled down the drain.” Bien then explains why Clara’s efforts to escape the law were not as successful as she had hoped. “There was only one problem: Clara’s sink wasn’t connected to the water system. The pipe went through her kitchen wall, draining wastewater into her yard. And at the end of that pipe, Clara saw Officer Connors collecting the moonshine as she poured it out. She desperately threw water into the sink, but it was too late. Connors had over a quart of evidence.”

Bien tells of the girls at Harriet School altering old worn out clothing so children would have something to wear during a cold winter of the depression. “Not only were the children sewing usable garments that were going back into the community, but they were also doing it with style - they were hand-sewing on bias tape. This is the colored decorative strip seen around the edges of things like potholders and aprons. It is folded three times and is devilishly difficult to sew by hand. No problem for these ten-year olds.”

This charming volume of Ypsilanti history will be enjoyed for years to come by everyone who has either lived in our great city or had relatives who resided here.

(James Mann is a local historian and author, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the “Gleanings.”)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Laura Bien in the YHS Archives doing research for one of her writing projects.

Photo2: The new book recently authored by Laura Bien.

Rest at East Mr. Opem

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2010,
Spring 2010
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

The YHS Museum has received a donation of military uniforms that were collected by Martin Opem, a life-long resident of Ypsilanti. The inventory includes both domestic and foreign uniforms that cover the Civil War through modern day. There are uniform jackets, pants, shirts, belts, helmets, and a wide variety of military caps.

Martin kept his uniform collection at his life-long home on Summit Street in Ypsilanti. He decided to collect uniforms after a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield because of his interest in local and national history. He derived a great deal of pleasure from collecting the uniforms, learning their history, and displaying them (including displays at the YHS Museum). Before collecting uniforms he had tried collecting stamps and coins but they did not satisfy him like collecting the uniforms.

In his collection he had a Revolutionary War Colonial soldier’s outfit, General George Custer’s K Company hat band, Confederate and Yankee Civil War uniforms, a British Air Force officer’s coat and a German Field Marshal jacket complete with iron cross. His collection contained both authentic and reproductions of military uniforms.

In addition to writing letters, Martin used a variety of ways to obtain uniforms. The cost of collecting was estimated at over $2,000 over a 20 year period. One could see him occasionally waiting at a bus stop on Washtenaw near the water tower, sometimes dressed in uniform, sometimes just standing and waiting.

Martin Opem was 63 years old at the time of his death in 2009. He was working in Ann Arbor and was a member of the local Civil Air Patrol. He was born, raised and lived his entire life in the house on Summit Street.

You can rest at ease Mr. Opem. Your unique uniform collection will now be used for the enjoyment and education of the people visiting the YHS Museum for years to come. Good job sir!

(George Ridenour is a volunteer in the YHS Archives, regularly conducts historical research on people, places and things, and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: One of the Uniforms donated by Mr. Opem is this USMC Officer’s Dress Blues – Lieutenant General, c. 1961. Ribbon Bars include: Navy Cross , Silver Star, Navy & Marine Corps Medal , WWI Victory Medal, Purple Heart , Air Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, National Defense Service Medal with rifle expert badge and Naval Aviator Badge.

Ghost Hunting in the Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2009,
Summer 2009
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

One dark and overcast morning, more years ago than I wish to tell, I was working alone in the Archives, which was then located where the Gift Shop is now. As I worked, I felt a need to get up and use the restroom. Getting up from my seat, I went to the restroom, closed the door and turned on the light, which turned on the ventilation fan. As I stood there, minding my own business, I heard what sounded like a woman singing. I could almost make out the words to the song. I finished what I was doing, turned off the light, which turned off the ventilation fan, and the singing stopped. I stood in the hall, and said to myself: “No wonder so many people believe in ghosts.” I decided I was done for the day, and left the building.

The house that is the home to the Ypsilanti Historical Museum is said to be haunted. The ghost is said to be that of Minerva Dow, as she was the one person known to have died in the house; but there may be others as well. As it turns out, research has shown that Minerva was not the only one to die in the house.

This year three paranormal investigation societies have carried out investigations at the museum. As part of the agreement with each society, the Ypsilanti Historical Society requested that members of the Historical Society be present to observe, to make sure nothing harmful happens to the museum or the society, and that each paranormal society submit a report of their findings to the YHS Archives. The three paranormal societies, each working independently of the others, agreed to the terms. I was the only person who observed all three groups. Here is my report on what happened.

First, a history of the house that is now the YHS Museum
The house, which is in the Italianate style, was built in 1860 by Asa Dow, a business partner of Daniel Lace Quirk. Dow was elected president of the then newly organized First National Bank of Ypsilanti on December 15, 1863. He was also an incorporator and the first president of the Ypsilanti Woolen Manufacturing Company. Dow did not stay long in Ypsilanti, as his wife Minerva died in 1864, and she is the second person buried in Highland Cemetery.

The local newspaper reported on March 17, 1865 that Asa Dow had sold the house and household goods to Aaron Goodrich for $14,000. Dow returned to Chicago, where he lived for the rest of his life. Goodrich and his wife Julia moved into the house on North Huron, and stayed there for ten years. He had come to Ypsilanti to manage the Follett House Hotel in what is now the Depot Town section of the city. In 1866 Goodrich became a salesman for the Batchelder & Company Monument Works, a local firm which fur- nished cemetery monuments throughout Southern Michigan.

The Goodrich family clearly took pride in their home, as noted by The Ypsilanti Com- mercial on May 13, 1865. “Messrs A. H. Goodrich and D. L. Quirk are enclosing their residences on Huron Street with a new fence that is indeed a credit to our city. It is mainly of wood but molded and sanded to imitate iron. It has elegant iron gateposts and is bolted with iron clamps to large square stone posts sunk three feet into the ground. For durability, it cannot be surpassed and we have seen nothing so tasty. We are told its cost was $30.00 per rod.”

The Goodrich family stayed in the house until 1879, when they moved to Saline to open the Goodrich House. The house was sold to Lambert Barnes and his wife Jane. Lambert Barnes was superintendent and later president of the Peninsular Paper Company, and Vice-President of the First National Bank of Ypsilanti. He served as mayor of Ypsilanti from 1875 to 1879. Barnes died suddenly in Detroit where he had gone to have an ulcerated tooth treated on June 30, 1887. His widow remained in the house until 1893. Members of the Barnes family continued to live in the house into the 1920’s.

A Robert Barnes died in the house on Wednesday, January 12, 1921 at the age of 51, reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, January 13, 1921, “after an illness of eighteen months with heart trouble.” Services were held at the house.

A Herbert H. Smith, who is listed in the City Directory for 1922, lived in the house with the Barnes family that year. That was the year the house was sold to Laverne Ross, who began the process of converting the house into apartments. Smith and his wife Ella are listed in the next directory, 1924, as living alone in the house. Smith is known to have left Ypsi- lanti in about 1927. He died in Dearborn on January 11, 1961.

The next directory, 1926, lists only an Eliza D. Cornwell as living in the house. The di- rectory further notes, that she is the widow of Cornelius. The directory for 1927 lists Eliza Cornwell as living in the house, but now she has been joined by Lydia Jones, the Dean of Women at the Michigan State Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University, Margaret Esther Ballew, Professor of Eng- lish at the Normal College and Frederick Alexander, the Director of the Department of Music at the Normal College. As the new people moved in, Eliza Cornwell died on November 22, 1927 at the age of 89. The funeral services were held at the home with interment at Highland Cemetery.

Lydia Jones moved out of the house in about 1930, as she is listed in the 1931 directory as residing at 222 North Huron. Remaining at the house were Margaret Ballew and Freder- ick Alexander. Frederick Alexander is known to have lived in one of the apartments on the first floor of the house. Alexander, who never married, was considered by the co-eds of the college to be the second handsomest man on campus. He lived in the house until he retired in 1941, when he moved first to Santa Fe, New Mexico and later to Lemon Grove, California. There he died on October 14, 1955. The Alexander Music Building at Eastern Michigan University is named in his honor.

Margaret Ester Ballew joined the faculty of Eastern in 1923 as Assistant Professor of Eng- lish. She was described in a letter as a “young woman, 35 years of, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds.” The letter to Normal College President Charles McKenny noted she was “of excellent qualities, and in character, she is above reproach in every way.” She remained in the house until about 1940, but stayed on the faculty of Eastern until 1949. She died on August 4, 1987 at the Claremont Manor in Claremont, California just one month short of her 100th birthday.

A number of tenants lived in the house over the years, some for a short time, including students, and some for the long term. The City Directories for 1941, 1942 and 1943, list a Christopher Brien as living in the house with his wife Emily. Then the directories for 1945, 1948, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1957 and 1958 list Bessie Bien, widow of Christopher as living in the house. No information has been found concerning the death of Chris- topher. The house was converted to the museum in 1972.

First Paranormal Society
The first paranormal society was scheduled to carry out its investigation of the house on a Friday night at the end of January. This group was a student organization of Eastern Michigan University, recently recognized by the university. I arrived at the house before the building was closed, so to be on hand when the others arrived. Alone in the house, I de- cided to do a “walk through” of the house, to make sure all was well. There was no need to do this, but it gave me something to do while I waited for the others to arrive.

I began the walk through at the front door of the museum, and went into the front parlor. As I passed into the next room, I heard a tin- gling sound from the glass lamp on the piano. I carried out the rest of the walk through, looking forward to the arrival of Bill and Karen Nickels, who were the other observers for the evening. As soon as I could, I had Bill retrace my steps from the front parlor to the next room. We concluded that the weight of the piano, plus my weight, had affected the floor, and caused the lamp to shake, which caused the sound I had heard.

The members of the paranormal society ar- rived, and began the process of setting up their teams. We were informed that we would have to stay in the Archives in the basement of the house, as the investigators had to account for the position of everyone in the house should anything happen. For this reason, Bill, Karen and I spent a pleasant time in the archives, reading, talking and snacking on the treats Karen had provided. From time to time, we heard the teams move from one position to another, but little else. The society had planned to conduct their research from 6:00 P.M. to midnight, but ended the investigation early. We were told the teams had recorded some sounds that needed to be studied. A report from the paranormal society was prom- ised, but has yet to appear.

Second Paranormal Society
The South Lyon Areas Paranormal Society (S.L.A.P.S.) arrived at the house on the evening of Friday, March 28, 2009. The members set up in the Archives in the base- ment of the house. Present to observe were Al Rudisill, President of the Historical Society, his wife Jan, and myself. This time the observ- ers were allowed to accompany the members of the paranormal society as they carried out their research. The members made their way through the house, holding their equipment and flashlights. The K-2 detectors showed high levels of electromagnetic fields in the basement of the building. Electromagnetic fields, each paranormal society reported, can cause headaches, nausea, hallucinations and paranoia.

Jan Rudisill and I followed the members of the society as they walked up the stairs from the Archives to the first floor. There, in one of the parlors, Jennifer Redfern, President of the Society, tried to communicate with the ghosts. Holding her K-2 detector in one hand, she asked the ghosts questions. The K-2 detector has several lights in a row, the number of lights glowing showing the level of energy present. To answer a question the ghost could make the lights glow once for no, twice for yes. There was no response at this time.

Later some of the members of the society and I were in the second floor Dress Room, where the dress of Florence Babbitt, which she wore as part of the city centennial celebration in 1923, is on a mannequin. As I was telling the story of Florence Babbitt and her role in the history of the city, we heard a strange noise, like a knock, from another room on the second floor. We were the only people on the second floor at that time. The investigation was concluded at one in the morning.

Third Paranormal Society
The Huron River Paranormal Society is a student group from Eastern Michigan University, but is not affiliated with the university. This is a society of students who wish to carry out investigations of the paranormal on their own. The first members of the society arrived at the museum at about 6:00 P. M. on Friday, April 3, 2009. This group arrived with an electromagnetic field detector, a K-2 detector, one infrared thermometer, two video cameras and a digital audio recorder. This society did not use flashlights during its investigation, but allowed the eyes to adapt to the darkness of the museum.

The first members to arrive carried out pre-readings which showed the building to have high electromagnetic fields in the basement where the Archives are located. The readings were very high in the basement storage area. The investigation began at 8:00 p.m. when Chad and I entered the first floor restroom, where I had heard the sound of a woman singing years before. As Chad and I stood in the restroom, with the light on and the ventilation fan running, two other members of the society, Anna and Ashley, went to the other floors of the museum. As Chad and I stood in the restroom, Anna and Ashley were on the other floors singing. Chad and I could not hear the singing of Anna and Ashley over the ventilation fan.

Later, Chad, another member of the society and I were in the second floor Dress Room, where the dress of Florence Babbitt is on display. Chad tried to communicate with the ghosts by asking them to make a knocking sound in response to questions, once for no and twice for yes. To illustrate what he meant, Chad got down on his hands and knees in the hallway, and, as he explained, knocked once on the floor for yes, and twice on the floor for no. At once his cell phone went off. It was Anna calling from the basement to say they could hear footsteps on the first floor. Chad told Anna what he had been doing, and knocked on the floor again so Anna could compare the sounds. The “footsteps” were the sound of Chad knocking on the floor.

Sitting on the couch in the Dress Room, I watched as Chad got back on his feet and returned to the room. Once again the members of the society tried to communicate with the ghosts. As they tried, I began to feel cold on the right side of my face and down the right arm. The paranormal investigators each placed their hands in the space beside my head and noted the air was colder there then in the rest of the room. There was no draft or open window which could explain the occurrence.

Later we were in the basement Archives, in the reading room section, when holding a K-2 Detector, an effort was again made to communicate with the ghosts. The ghosts were asked to signal by means of the K-2. In an effort to learn the name of the ghost, some- one began to recite the letters of the alphabet. The lights of the K-2 flared at the letter B. No further information was forthcoming. Late in the evening we were sitting around the table in the research section of the Archives. Chad held the K-2 in one hand and tried to communicate with the ghosts. Once again the lights of the K-2 Detector flared at the letter B. Questions were asked, but there was no response. Then I felt another cold spot, again on the right side of my face and down the right arm. A K-2 Detector was placed in the space beside my head, and all the lights flared. As the K-2 Detector was raised toward the ceiling, all but the first light indicating background went out. At this time Anna was using a video camera to record the session. As she did the green light on the K-2 Detector appeared to be covered by a red light. All the lights in the museum were turned off, and there was no apparent source for this red light. The red light is clearly visible on the video, but could not be seen by any of us in the room, except through the camera viewfinder.

Two members of the society were walking through the first floor kitchen area and noted the lights on the K-2 flare. They asked the ghost if it would like to talk with them, again using the K-2, once for yes and twice for no. The K-2 flared twice, so the two left the room. I for one was very happy when midnight arrived and it was time to call it a night. For the first time I had come to feel there might be some truth to the idea that paranormal activity existed in the house.

Each of the two paranormal societies who turned in reports concluded there was some paranormal activity in the museum. The Huron Valley Paranormal Society and the South Lyon Area Paranormal Society concluded that the spirit or spirits intend no harm to anyone. The Ypsilanti Historical Society takes no official position on the question of whether or not there is paranormal activity in the Museum, but welcomed each group doing the investigations.

(James Mann is a local historian, a regular volunteer in the YHS Museum and Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo 1: James Mann, local historian, came to the conclusion that there may well be some type of paranormal activity in the Museum.

Photo 2: K-2 Detector – a device used to measure the level of electromagnetic energy present.

Ypsilanti Historical Society Board

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, June 1990,
June 1990
Original Images:

Jack C. Miller, 710 Helen: President, 487-3954

Herbert Cornish, 830 W. Clark Road: Vice President, 482-2108

Billie Zolkosky, 1565 S. Congress #28: Secretary, 482-8443

William Ealy, B448 Winters Lane- Whitmore Lake, Mich: Treasurer, 449-0448

Doris Milliman, 1116 Grant Street: Historian, 483-3236

Marjorie Gauntlett, 204 N Wallace Blvd, 4B3-1876

Carroll Osburn, 103 W. Ainsuorth, 483-356B

Rex Richie, 1065 Maple, 484-1510

Peter Fletcher, 25 S. Huron, 483-1896

Special Appointees to the Board of Directors:

Dr. William P Edmunds, 1303 Westmoorland, 482-5218
Ron Miller, 530 Cliffs, 482-4365
Earnest Griffin, 1200 Harris Road, 482-8029

Board Meetings are held the
First Thursday of each month
at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum

EMU/YHS Intern Agreement Implemented

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2006,
Fall 2006
Original Images:

The five year agreement between the Ypsilanti Historical Society and Eastern Michigan University is now in operation. Two interns from the graduate program in Historical Preservation started working in the Museum and Archives on August 7th. Each intern will work 20 hours per week on projects assigned by YHS officers. Eventually, it is expected that the intern program will allow the Society to keep the Museum and Archives open to the public for up to 24 hours per week.

Jessica Williams is serving as the intern for the YHS Museum. Jessica has an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville, Ohio with a concentration in Building and Restoration Technology. Her Bachelor's Degree is in Business Administration with concentrations in Economics and East Asia Studies from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Jessica served as a 2005 summer intern at the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) in Washington, D.C. During her service as an intern at NTHP she worked for the Kellogg Foundation Grant for the NTHP Rural Heritage Initiative Study where she researched rural preservation projects in relation to grassroots preservation efforts. In the summer of 2006 she served as a summer intern at The Center for Historic Preservation at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. On this internship she completed the existing conditions assessment and appropriateness of building materials for a historic structures report for the State of Indiana on the Old State Bank in Vincennes, Indiana.

In the future, Jessica visualizes herself within a hands-on work environment. She might be found at a historical site, or perhaps at an architectural firm working on preservation projects. Other options might be working as a consultant in restoration/revitalization efforts for rural or small town historic districts or you may find her researching city or regional planning regarding demographics relative to economic feasibility and funding sources at the local, state, or federal levels. In the meantime, Jessica is looking forward to her internship at the Ypsilanti Historical Society and to her pursuit of a Master's Degree in Historical Preservation from Eastern Michigan University.

Archives Intern

Laurie Turkawski is serving as the intern for the YHS Archives. Laurie has a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Finance from Oakland University and a Master of Science Degree in Finance and Economics from Walsh College in Michigan. After working for over 15 years in the accounting and finance field, she has completed 28 credit hours toward the Master of Science Degree in Historical Preservation at Eastern Michigan University in order to change her career. She has a current graduate grade point average of 4.0 and expects to graduate in the spring of 2007. Laurie looks forward to a career in cultural resource management.

Laurie just completed a “Simmons Internship” at The Henry Ford (Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village) in Dearborn, a program which was designed to give work experience to graduate students pursuing careers in museums, historical agencies, or related fields. She conducted historical and architectural research and building condition assessments, resulting in a historic structures reports for the Grimm Jewelry Store in Greenfield Village. She is continuing on at The Henry Ford as a volunteer to document the recent restoration of the Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop, also in Greenfield Village, as well as other projects. Laurie has also performed Michigan Historic and Architectural Field Surveys within the City of Ypsilanti to help update the documentation of the city's historic districts.

In 2003 & 2004 Laurie served as a volunteer for Preservation Wayne in Detroit, where she participated in the organization of the archives, researched historic buildings for the Cultural Center Tour Route, and assisted tour guides for the Cultural Center Tour, Freer House, and Century Club and Gem Theater.

From the President's Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2006,
Fall 2006
Original Images:

Author: Alvin E. Rudisill

We have reached a verbal agreement with the City of Ypsilanti to purchase the property at 220 North Huron Street where the Museum and Archives are located. At their meeting on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 the City Council agreed in principal with our offer to purchase the property for $250,000. $125,000 will be paid immediately and the balance of $125,000 will be due in no more than 10 years. The mortgage to the City will not accrue interest as long as the Society uses the property for a Museum and/or Archives. Lawyers for the City and the Society were asked to write up the agreement. Once the agreement has been signed the Society will launch a fundraising campaign to raise the $125,000.

The Graduate Intern Agreement between the Society and Eastern Michigan University has been implemented and Jessica Williams and Laurie Turkawski have started working 20 hours per week in the Museum and Archives (see article in this issue of the Gleanings). They are both busy organizing and packing artifacts in the basement of the Museum so renovation work can begin when the Society assumes ownership of the property. New storage shelving and storage boxes have been purchased so maximum use can be made of available storage space.

Please put the following dates on your calendar: September 15: Annual Membership Meeting; September 28 to October 15: Quilt Exhibit; December 3: Quarterly Membership Meeting and Christmas Open House; and December 31: New Year's Eve Jubilee. Ted Ligibel, Director of the Graduate Program in Historical Preservation at Eastern Michigan University will be our speaker for the September 15th Annual Membership Meeting.

We are still in need of volunteers with various skills (carpentry, lawn care, computer data entry, painting, etc.) for maintenance projects in the Museum and Archives. If you are willing to do volunteer work for a few hours each month please call me at 734–484–3023 or email me at al@rudisill.ws and we will get you started. Also, if you have writing skills and are interested in researching articles for future issues of the Gleanings we would like to get you involved.

We are receiving many favorable comments about the expansion of “The Gleanings” publication. Our sincere thanks to the authors who are writing the stories that make this expansion possible.

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